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THINKING OUT LOUD - Thank goodness all the essentials are on ground floor here

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

A few years ago I told you in this space about some bad elevator experiences I have had.

Coupled with a touch of claustrophobia, those experiences are enough to give me pause every time I get on an elevator.

To say the least, I would not like to be trapped in an elevator for a prolonged period.

That's why the recent news story about the living nightmare elevator experience of one Nicholas White gave me chills. I am pretty sure I would now be in an institution somewhere if what happened to him had happened to me.

In case you have not yet heard or seen it, here's the story.

White was working late one Friday evening in October at his job with Business Week magazine in New York City's McGraw Hill building. According to ABC News: "The 34-year-old New York production manager went outside for a smoke . . . and was returning to his office on the 39th floor when the elevator stopped abruptly between floors. White pressed the alarm, letting it ring and ring. But at 11 p.m. the building was deserted and it would be nearly two days before White was rescued."

Nearly two days alone in an elevator! Yikes!

The story went on to say: "He paced around the elevator like a bug trapped in a box, fighting claustrophobia every minute of his 41-hour ordeal, which was captured on a video surveillance camera."

You can watch a greatly condensed and speeded up version of White's experience in a YouTube video.

In that video you will see the poor guy in the moments after his elevator comes to a stop at approximately the 13th floor of the building.

For the first few minutes, he repeatedly pushes the control buttons. Then the elevator alarm button. Then he pries open the elevator doors revealing, as we learn later, a solid concrete block wall; Mr. White was on an express elevator whose shaft has no openings for 20 or 30 floors at a time.

He had no watch, no cell phone, no food. Eventually he had no idea whether it was night or day.

"The most difficult part of the ordeal," the ABC News story said, "was going 41 hours without water. At one point, White thought he might die of dehydration.

"He relieved himself by opening the elevator doors a bit and urinating down the elevator shaft.

"He rang the emergency bell, but he couldn't take the constant noise so he occasionally turned it off."

Again watching the video you see White pacing around, sitting down, lying down, taking out the contents of his wallet and trying to amuse himself by comparing, for instance, an old twenty dollar bill with a new one.

He lay face down on the grubby elevator carpet for hours at a time. He was unbearably thirsty.

I am sure I would have gone out of my mind.

He was angry, too. Why had his work associates not come looking for him? Why did the people who monitor the surveillance cameras not see him? Why did someone not notice that elevator number 30 was not in operation? Why was no one responding to that infernal bell?

Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., 41 hours after elevator 30 had jolted to a stop, a voice on the elevator intercom awakened him. Maintenance personnel talked him through some procedures that got the car moving. Moments later he emerged in the building lobby. Those present said he looked like a ghost.

Unfortunately, White became obsessed with thoughts of retribution. He never went back to work at McGraw Hill. He sued the building's management and the elevator maintenance company for $25 million. The legal proceedings took four years. They paid something in the neighborhood of $100,000. But he lost his job of 15 years and all his friendships from work. He has not found other employment and has spent all the money received from a lawsuit.

It is like an episode of The Twilight Zone. A man steps onto an elevator and when he steps off it 41 hours later his life is changed forever.

I knew there was a reason I don't like being in those things.

And I count my blessings that I live in Norwalk where almost anything you ever really need can be found on the ground floor.

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